In its earliest meaning, worship means “giving reverence to that which is most worthy of our attention and devotion.” For Unitarian Universalists, such worthy things include life, mercy, justice, and learning. Unitarian Universalism focuses on personal and spiritual growth, living as a caring community, and putting beliefs into action.
At West Shore and every other Unitarian Universalist congregation, members include people with Protestant, Jewish, Catholic, Buddhist, Pagan, Muslim as well as Unitarian Universalist religious backgrounds – and many who grew up with (or grew into) no religious affiliation at all. Unitarian Universalists believe that we need not think alike to love alike.
Religious beliefs matter. They matter so much, in fact, that Unitarian Universalist churches will not force anyone to believe certain things–especially things that go contrary to a person’s sense of reason and conscience. Unitarian Universalists believe that the role of the church community is to support people’s spiritual growth and give them the tools and resources they need to discover the beliefs that make sense to them. One of these tools is kindness. We are kind to each other in religious community because we know that, as Plato once said, “Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We know that “we need not think alike to love alike.”
Jesus & God?
Since there is no uniformity of religious beliefs in Unitarian Universalism, some UUs believe that Jesus was indeed the son of God; others respect him as a prophet, rabbi and teacher – one of many important religious leaders. There are similarly diverse ideas about God, (including atheist or agnostic perspectives). Unitarian Universalists call God by many names, such as Higher Power; Spirit of Life; Transcending Mystery – or by no name at all.
Unitarian Universalists believe the Bible is a good book, but not the only sacred book. Holy texts have come from many sources, so a wide variety of sources appear in worship.
Heaven and Hell?
The “Universalist” part of Unitarian Universalism rejected the idea of hell more than two centuries ago. (There seems to be plenty of evidence that human beings are quite capable of creating hell for one another in this life. Heaven, too.) Nevertheless, there are many beliefs present on this question as well: some of us believe in an afterlife, and some do not. The common concern is how to make this life meaningful and good for all people.
Can I Bring my Buddist-Jewish-Sufi-Pagan practices, heritage, and traditions to a UU church?
Yes! West Shore has, at various times, hosted a UU Christian Fellowship Group, Buddhist sitting/meditation groups, an annual Seder dinner, a Pagan group, and a Humanist / Atheist / Agnostic / Free Thinker Group. No one is asked to give up an identity or practice or cultural heritage important to them. There’s room for a variety of religious and spiritual practices in this congregation. In fact, it’s welcome!
West Shore is the largest UU church in greater Cleveland, but it isn’t the oldest. That honor belongs to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland, now located east of the city in Shaker Heights. Other congregations in the area include East Shore UU Church in Kirtland, Ohio, Southwest UU Church in North Royalton, and First Universalist Church in North Olmsted, as well as the UU communities in Oberlin, Toledo, Akron, and Wooster. All these congregations share news of programs and special events, and members often band together in the Cleveland Pride march and other regional justice efforts. Each of these congregations has its own style, culture, and strengths.
Each year, several members and friends from West Shore attend Summer Institute (SI) – a weeklong intergenerational gathering that currently takes place on the campus of Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. Approximately six hundred Unitarian Universalists from congregations in the former Ohio-Meadville District attend and take part in worship, workshops, social events, religious education classes for children, outdoor activities, and many other things!
On a regional level, West Shore Church is part of the Central East Region, which includes Unitarian Universalist congregations in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, the northern portion of Virginia, West Virginia, and most of Ohio.
General Assembly is the annual gathering of Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), where we conduct business of the Association, explore the theological underpinnings of our faith, and lean fully into our mission and principles. Attendees worship, witness, learn, connect, and make policy for the Association through a democratic process. Anyone may attend; congregations must certify annually to have voting delegates.
Join us June 21 – 25, 2023, online or in-person in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Most GA events will take place at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, 1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA.
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